A holistic understanding of environmental health

In Manila in the Philippines, Médecins du Monde is working on the environmental factors that affect people’s health in poor urban communities. The holistic approach developed in the field by the NGO allows the inhabitants of Baranguay 775 to adopt good practices themselves.

Humanitarian & development

Manila (Philippines)

Damien Machuel

€100,000 at the board meeting on 18 June 2019

Project Owner

Médecins du Monde

As an international NGO praised by its peers, Médecins du Monde (MdM) has made environmental health a key lever for helping the poorest people. In France and internationally, MdM works with communities to reduce people's exposure to high-risk environments, both in their homes and their workplaces.
It focuses on the exposure of populations to external factors (biological, chemical, physical) that may have effects (negative or positive) on physical and mental health. This exposure interacts with other health determinants (behavioural, social, psychological, cultural, economic and political). They may aggravate existing social and geographical inequalities and weaken the most vulnerable groups.

Supporting people in Manila since 2012

With the support of the Veolia Foundation, the NGO has already developed a program to prevent health and environmental risks for WEEE dismantlers in the Philippines. The project, initiated in 2012, made it possible to implement an intervention methodology by relying on local communities and authorities. The 2018-2020 program builds on this and extends it to include the broader issue of environmental health.
The population in the Barangay 775 district will be the project’s main beneficiary. The goal is to empower people to improve their own health by adopting a holistic, community-based approach. By identifying environmental determinants such as living conditions, hygiene practices, waste, water, sanitation and exposure to the risk of disaster, people need to better understand the negative impact the environment can have on their health.

A strong community focus

In order for the population to take ownership of these environmental health issues, MdM has chosen a shared approach with local communities and authorities. The NGO will be at the centre of the change as a facilitator with the creation of a platform of actors who can collaborate to act on the different factors on the basis of their expertise. In the long term, good practices will be shared for the transfer and implementation of the same model in other Manila barangays.
An anthropological study was carried out in 2018 to provide a better understanding of the context and, consequently, adapt the awareness raising messages. A diagnosis of the community’s capacities and vulnerabilities was conducted by the community itself in order to identify the most significant environmental health risks. This exercise identified four priority themes that the population identified as major threats: waste management, fire risk, dengue fever and floods.
The project will start with training community volunteers to raise local residents’ awareness of practices that are more respectful of their immediate environment and, in the process, of their health.